Synopses & Reviews
Chapter One The Wish of My Heart
Alexander Hamilton realized instantly that he would die. Before he even heard the shot, the oversize lead ball had torn into his right side just above the hip, crashed through a rib, sliced through his liver, shattering a vertebra. Pitching forward on his face, Hamilton, the first secretary of the treasury of the United States, the author of the "Federalist Papers, George Washington's strong right hand, the financial genius who had created Wall Street, and as inspector general of the U.S. Army, launched the U.S. Navy, fell to the ground, clutching his dueling pistol. His friend and second in the duel, Nathaniel Pendleton, rolled him over, cupped him in his arms, and held him, half sitting, under a cedar tree, away from the glaring July sunlight.
"Dr. Hosack!" Pendleton yelled. "Dr. Hosack!" Waiting with the oarsman below by the Hudson shore, Dr. David Hosack rushed up the narrow path toward the dueling place atop a small granite outcropping of cliff below the waking village of Weehawken, New Jersey, that steaming Thursday morning of July 11, 1804. He brushed past Aaron Burr, vice president of the United States, shielded by his second's umbrella to conceal his face as he hastened toward a rowboat that would hurry him across to New York City.
By the time Dr. Hosack, breathless, reached him, Hamilton had slumped to the ground and was losing consciousness. But he managed to gasp, "This is a mortal wound, Doctor." Once, Hamilton had wanted to study medicine. He knew anatomy. He knew the path of his pain, that his legs no longer moved. He thought he would die on the spot. So did Dr. Hosack. When he pulled up the bloody shirt, probed for a pulse, hecould not hear Hamilton breathing. Hamilton had, Dr. Hosack wrote a few weeks later, "become to all appearance lifeless. His pulses were not to be felt. His respiration was entirely suspended. Laying my hand on his heart, I considered him irrecoverably gone."
Hosack and Pendleton carried Hamilton out of the woods and down the steep path. The boatman helped wrestle him onto the barge, placing the ornate case and pistol beside him. The doctor worked over him, rubbing spirits of hartshorne over his face, lips, forehead, neck, breast, arms. The cool massage seemed to have a miraculous effect. About fifty yards from shore, Hamilton sighed, the fresh breeze on the open water helping to revive him. His eyes half open, "to our great joy," recounted Hosack, "he at length spoke: 'My vision is indistinct, '" he said. "His pulse became more perceptible, his respiration more regular; his sight returned." But when the doctor tried to press Hamilton's side, to examine the wound, the pain was too much for Hamilton.
For a while, as the oars groaned in the tholes and slapped the water, Hamilton tried to talk. He spied the pistol, lent to him by his friend John Church. It was the same hair-triggered pistol Hamilton's oldest son had used three years before when he had been killed in a duel. The sight jolted him. "Take care of that pistol!" Hamilton cried. "It is undischarged, and still cocked. It may go off and do harm." He did not realize he had fired the gun into the air when Burr's bullet had struck him. Now he tried to turn his head toward Pendleton, sitting behind him in the stern. "Pendleton knows I did not intend to fire at him." His second nodded. "Yes, I have already told Dr. Hosack that."Then Hamilton fell silent. He remained calm, his eyes closed. Just before the boat bumped into the dock, Hamilton asked his friends to summon his wife, Elizabeth, at home with their seven children at The Grange at Manhattan's northern tip. She had no idea of the duel. "Let Mrs. Hamilton be immediately sent for. Let the event be gradually broken to her, but give her hopes."
Hamilton's old friend William Bayard was looking down at him as the boat docked. A servant had told him that Hamilton had rowed away from Bayard's dock at dawn with two other men. Now Bayard strained to see as the boat neared: he could make out only two figures. Looking down into the boat, he could see why. Bayard had known Hamilton some thirty years since Hamilton, a young artillery captain, had fortified the Bayard family home and turned it into Bunker Hill Fort at the outbreak of the Revolution. I called Bayard to have a cot prepared," Dr. Hosack recorded. "He, at the same moment, saw his poor friend lying in the bottom of the boat. He threw up his eyes and burst into a flood of tears." Hamilton alone appeared tranquil and composed. "We then conveyed him as tenderly as possible up to the house."
Alexander Hamilton lasted thirty-one hours after Aaron Burr shot him. When they finally got him into a bed on the second floor of Bayard's house on Chambers Street, he was nearly comatose. The doctor undressed him and administered a large dose of a strong anodyne, a painkiller. During the first day, Hosack gave Hamilton more than an ounce of an opium and cider potion, called laudanum, washing it down with watered wine. But, Hosack noted, "his sufferings during the whole day were almost intolerable." The ball hadlodged inside his second lumbar disk, which had shattered, paralyzing his legs. His stomach was slowly filling with blood from severed blood vessels in his liver. Hosack "had not the shadow of a hope of his recovery," but he called in surgeons from French men-of-war anchored in the harbor who "had much experience in gunshot wounds." They agreed that Hamilton's condition was hopeless.
During the night of July 11, the sedated Hamilton "had some imperfect sleep." He knew he had little time left to live: he asked Bayard to summon the Reverend Benjamin Moore ...
From his less than auspicious start in 1755 on the Caribbean Island of Nevis to his untimely death in a duel with his old enemy Aaron Burr in 1804, Alexander Hamilton, despite his short life, left a huge legacy.
Orphaned at thirteen and apprenticed in a counting house, Hamilton learned principles of business that helped him create the American financial system and invent the modern corporation. But first the staunch, intrepid Hamilton served in the American Revolution, acting as General Washingtons spymaster. Forging a successful legal career, Hamilton coauthored the Federalist Papers and plunged into politics. Irresistibly attractive, he was a man of many gifts, but he could be arrogant and at times a poor judge of character.
In this meticulously researched, illuminating, and lively account, Willard Sterne Randall explores Hamiltons life—his illegitimate birth, little-known military activities, political and diplomatic intrigues, and scandalous affairs—and its indelible impact on modern America.
In the war of 1812, 12-year-old Caroline Banning is determined to help defendher Maryland town from a British attack. Drawing on historical fact and locallore, Caldecott medalist McCully has crafted an original story of heroism foryoung readers. Full-color illustrations.
About the Author
Willard Sterne Randall is the Visiting Professor of Humanities at Champlain College in Vermont and an expert on early U.S. history. He received the Sidney Hillman Prize and the National Magazine Award as an investigative reporter. His book, Benedict Arnold: Patriot and Traitor was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and A Little Revenge: Benjamin Franklin and His Son won the Frank Luther Mott Prize. He lives in Burlington, Vermont with his family.